Finding Ground

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Back in February/March, I went to Sayulita, Mexico, and found myself as I have never done before. I went alone. As such, I was required to make my own self care an absolute priority, down to what I ate. While there, I encountered regular thoughts of self-hatred, regular condemnation for the lack of yoga I was doing (I’d planned on going daily while there), and general depressiveness. In spite of all this, I allowed and accepted these feelings with an equanimity that surprised even me. My big “S” Self stepped into the picture and held all the shifting in her great arms.

On the way home, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go to school for counseling, not now. This was groundbreaking, since I’d been wanting to go to school for counseling since I was 15 (so, for 10 years). What I did not realize is that this was the first of many shifts in my life this year.

I held onto my equanimity for about a month, and then my world began to tilt and I could feel my Self falling back under the influence of my scared ego. I became smaller again.

I started a supervisor position at work, which was much more difficult than I expected considering I have never been a supervisor. It was also difficult in the sense that I was officially dropping my dream of going to school.

I met a boy. We talked for a little while, then I shut him out, from fear. But this experience made me realize that I lacked spontaneity in my life generally, and that my program for love addiction was hindering me, rather than helping me. Instead of forming my own ideals about love and relationships, I was looking to others to do so for me. I decided to step away from my love addiction program, which I had participated in for almost 2 years, and in which I had completed all 12 steps required and a dating plan.

The same week I decided to do this, I moved to a new apartment. This was a mere 2 weeks after another incident at my old apartment, where someone broke into the basement below my apartment. This was the SECOND such incident I’d had in a year and a half of living there. I didn’t find out until last month (via my dad) that the 2nd guy also had a gun and fired at police. I had thankfully left the apartment by that time.

But it didn’t end there. In stepping away from my love addiction program, I also shifted my alcohol recovery. I’m not regularly attending 12 step recovery right now, though I continue to stay sober and in touch with my sponsor. I am choosing sobriety right now for this reason: I use alcohol to numb. In general in my life, what I am attempting to do is eliminate all things which I use to avoid the present and my true Self. As such I choose to continue to stay sober from alcohol at this time.

And then on June 29th, I started dating Kevin.

This completely ungrounded me. I had already had so much shifting happening in my life. From the very beginning of our relationship, I’ve struggled with massive fear. I’m not talking about the usual relationship worries and nervousness. I’m talking about flat out panic.

I am ashamed to say that it has taken me 5 months to regain myself. And there are prices to pay for not being yourself in a relationship. I am not at all proud of my behavior. I caused a lot of pain and have had to beg forgiveness. Yet on the other hand, I look at myself with compassion.

So much of this year has been about finding who I am, and not living others-defined. My entire life, I have lived defined by what others want of me. Growing up, if we didn’t fall in line with my dad’s dream of God giving us 1.7 billion dollars, we were verbally harangued. I went straight from that into a marriage that I felt like “GOD” was telling me to be in, with a dysfunctional man who was sadly a pornography addict. I finally stepped out of this, and straight into recovery programs that were very structured and I continued living by others’ ideas. I am not saying that my recovery programs were unhelpful. What I am saying is that my perception of how to “work” them caused me to again base my life on what others told me to do, when what I needed was empowerment. Truly, the biggest reason I have not returned to meetings is that I am still unable to change my perception on it, and know that I won’t until I have gained enough ground in myself.

Beginning with my decision to not go to school this year, it has been the year of unraveling living the life I was “supposed” to live, or told to live, or felt like I HAD to live… for the life that I want to live. Not in a selfish “I want to do this and fuck everyone else” sort of way, rather, in a healthy, skillful, heart-centered way. To do this I’ve had to find who it is that I am, without all the structures I’ve made myself up of.

So I suppose it was somewhat natural to go into a relationship and struggle with this very thing. Not allowing myself to feel whatever it was that I felt, out of fear that I would a) screw the whole thing up and be in another unhealthy relationship and b) cause great harm to someone else.

Ironically and very unfortunately, I caused great harm to my boyfriend, while trying to avoid it. Lesson learned. Do not abandon self, no matter what. No matter how much your feelings are scaring you, do not abandon self. Do not abandon feelings.

Thankfully, I found my yoga program just at the right time. The entire program is about becoming a teacher from the foundation of becoming your true Self. And the whole program EMPOWERS you to become your true Self instead of giving rules to follow. Through my yoga program, I’ve come back to myself.

I’ve written here about Patanjali’s sutra I.23 – Ishvara Pranidhana Dva. The sutra of surrender. The theme of the past 5 months has entirely been surrender, since the very start of my relationship. My relationship really began with the movie The Fountain, a story that I see as one of surrender, ultimately.

On Friday, I looked up at the sky and asked the Universe, please let me know I am on the right path. Make it clear, startlingly clear for me, what I need to do. Within fast succession, BOTH things occurred (I should not have been surprised). Later that day at work, I found a poem in an old notebook, one I wrote before my boyfriend and I really even started talking much, about the terror of living in an overwrought mind, and the way past it (death/surrender), that used symbolism of an exploding star (a theme in The Fountain). I took this instantly as knowing “I am in the right place.”

On Saturday, I was standing in my work breakroom and I read yet another graphic on Facebook about surrender and grace. With tears in my eyes I fell to my knees and said, “Okay. Fine. I hear you. I’m done. I will feel whatever I feel.” That night, I went to our local poetry open mic. I saw a woman walk in, and as soon as I saw her, I knew that whatever she spoke would be for me. Her poem? It was on surrender and releasing, healing wounds to heal karmic patterns. I was floored.

And Sunday, my yoga training met again. We have been doing root chakra work, lots of it, and yesterday learned a set of asana poses specifically targeted for the root chakra. We spent 2.5 hours on these poses, which was grueling and exhausting. I felt somewhat resentful that we spent so much time in them, that the teacher was pushing us so much and so quickly. But I had a series of questions that came to me as we worked together Sunday. As these questions came up, I started to feel a stronger sense of Self.

“What if I am desperately craving connection with myself?”
“How do I bring growth to that way of being?”
“In what ways can I support my heart opening?” – this, as I realized that I have to find security and strength in root chakra before I can open up through my heart.

After our asana practice (mostly thigh/leg work) and these musings, I went and hiked the Incline with my boyfriend. I was finally just there, breathing, feeling whatever I felt with him, surrendered to what is. It was a great hike, and despite all the leg work I’d already done, I had a huge endorphin high. We got to the top just as dusk fell, so we headed back down Barr Trail as it got dark. For about half the trail, I was behind him, and we alternated running and hiking steadily. And as we hiked, something hit me.

“No matter what happens with us, I will be okay.” And I knew it all the way through myself, to the very marrow of my bones. I felt like I was snapped back into my body and was instantly flooded with an intense joy, at the reunion with myself. Something about feeling the ground underneath my feet, and the burning in my thighs and legs from the hike and the root chakra asana practice (which I am convinced brought on a lot of this transformation), brought me back to myself.

I am supported. Not because someone else holds me up, but because I am enough and I hold myself. This is surrender, to myself, to the knowledge that I have what it takes to hold the world within me.

This return to myself feels like touching the solid ground after being at sea for months. There is a sense of great relief, and bliss at reunion with my true Self. I remember the woman I was from Sayulita, the one who I truly am. The one who allows and lets life unfold and is not afraid to feel it all, because I am expansive, strong, resilient.

I can’t stop the glimmer of fear that I will lose myself again. But, I will breathe, and allow the fear, and keep surrendering. I know this truth: as long as I continue to surrender, I will always find Her.

It’s been a long journey over the sea of my ego-driven self, but I am finding ground. I am finally home.

Final Note: I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am writing this on December 8th, and scheduling it to post on the 7th anniversary of the death of my sisters. This year has been one of transformation – and every 7 years, a person’s body sheds all their skin cells and gains a completely new set of them. I am in a new skin now, 7 years later, truly transformed on a physical and spiritual level. And I would not be who I am without my sisters. Deep bow to you, my dear hearts, and two of my greatest teachers.

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What I’ve Been Reading Recently…

So, it turns out that being out of school is much more conducive to picking up a volume of the written word and perusing it for pleasure.

In the past month I think I’ve read… 5 books? I’m losing count now. I figured that this prodigious amount of reading merited some reviews of these books. I’ve been excessively excited about most of them and dying to recommend them to people, so… thanks for being my guinea pigs! 😉

Without further ado…

1. Immortal Diamond – Richard Rohr
My friend loaned me this book about a month and a half ago (maybe more? sorry, H, I’ll get it back to you soon) when I said I needed more spiritual reading for my mornings. What a powerhouse of a book. Reading it kind of made me think about being a Christian again. In the most non-traditional sense possible. At heart, I think I’m just a mystic no matter what religion it’s tied to. This book is all about transcending the ego (or transmuting/transforming it, depending on what language you’d like to use) and finding the immortal diamond within us all. That’s a really, really pithy way to describe the entire book. Honestly I just suggest getting it yourself if you are interested in any type of mysticism. It’s a great read. I honestly need to go through it again; there is SO MUCH there.

2. The Desire Map – Danielle Laporte
I mentioned this book in my last post. Danielle Laporte is a life coach and has produced an insane amount of material. This book came along right when my quarter life crisis first hit and I jumped at it. A blogger friend of mine was offering the opportunity to do an online book group for it and I thought it was the perfect opportunity. So I’ve been working through it now for about 2 months. Namely, I’ve discovered I’m truly motivated by the 6 core feelings (she calls them CDFs or Core Desired Feelings) that I mentioned in my last post – Sacred, Grounded, Belonging, Flow, Electric, and Liberated. I’ve had these words for about a month now and I have definitely noticed them in all facets of my life. Furthermore, it helps me to live much more intentionally. Danielle recommends steering your entire life towards these feelings – her message? To feel good, of course! That’s pretty much the point of the book: figure out what feelings are core for you, and live in a way directed to them. AKA following your bliss. I highly recommend this book if you need a new way of looking at goals or if goal setting wears you out! I promise this version of it won’t!

3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
This is the only fiction book I’ve read in the past couple of months, so far. And to be honest? I was not and am not impressed. Everyone was all ga-ga over this book and gushing about how SAD it was and how PROFOUND it was. Maybe it was supposed to be ironic? Maybe that was the point? I really don’t care. It was awful. It was another cliched cancer book, and I read a ton of those as a teenager so I am really over this trend. Plus, the entire plot was so predictable. I personally like creative, interesting, different books that radically shift one’s mindset on something. Like Perks of Being a Wallflower when it came out. Now that was a book. This one… well… nope. (Yes, it pretty much is NOT a book but a piece of cancer fan fic)

4. If The Buddha Dated – Charlotte Kasl
So, my therapist recommended this book to me months ago when I complained about feeling totally inept at dating and relationships with men. Of course I promptly ignored his book suggestion until I felt really desperate. Then I picked up this book. OMG you guys. I’m telling you. If you read ANY book on dating, read this one. And it’s not just good for people actively dating. It’s a spiritual approach to the whole thing (mostly Buddhist, but Charlotte is Sufi, Buddhist, and Quaker, so it’s not all Buddhist). It talks about centering yourself first and living out of a spontaneous authentic center as the basis for all you do. A-MAAHHH-ZING. Thanks, therapist… you were right, again.

5. The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
I’m just finishing this book up and wow. I got it as an e-book from the library, and I have historically started out slow in reading e-books. Well, this book started as a slow read for me, and then I have absolutely devoured it. The mythic ideas throughout have been fascinating. I find myself realizing what he talks about – we live in a society that has no main myth. I can feel the ache while I read other myths, the longing for a core myth of my own and the relation in my soul to the myths he mentioned. They’ve become informative and transformative for me just in reading through this. This book has been hitting me in the gut and has provided several eye-opening realizations. Recommend, recommend! If you haven’t read it yet – DO!

Next up on my reading list, I have Island by Aldous Huxley, finishing off The Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Many Roads, One Journey by Charlotte Kasl. That last one might be considered a bit blasphemous by some of my friends. But I like living outside the lines. I want a full perspective on recovery, not just a program one. And I’m curious to hear her perspective. I’ll let you know what I think after I read the book.

What have you been reading? What are some recommendations you have? What do you want to read next?

[Ps. I am NOT being compensated for any of these reviews – they are purely based on my own opinion]